Thursday, July 23, 2009

Satan's Plan

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (NIV).

George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town, came to church one Easter Sunday morning carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the boy and asked, "What do you have there, son?"

"Just some old birds," came the reply.

"What are you going to do with them?" I asked.

"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time."

"But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll let the cats have them."

The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh? Why, you don't want those birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing and they ain't even pretty!"

"How much?" the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "I'll take ten dollars!"

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill and placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story. One day, Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap by using bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got them all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.

Satan replied, "Oh, I'm going to have fun! I'll teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'll teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really going to have fun!"

"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly.

"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, you don't want those people. They are no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!"

"How much?" Jesus asked again. Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life." Jesus said, "DONE!" Then He paid the price.

The pastor then picked up the cage, opened the door and walked from the pulpit.

Today, my friend, consider the price Jesus Christ paid for you. Go back to the Cross - to Calvary and the darkness that once filled your world. Remember what it was like before Jesus Christ came into your life with His presence and power. We forget. We lose sight of where we were when He came and just how far He has brought us.

Today is a good day to go back over the books and celebrate! Celebrate an undeserved and stubborn love that has radically changed our lives for eternity. Celebrate a forgiveness that covers every sin and shame. Celebrate a hope that is found only in a crucified and risen Lord!

Father, thank You for paying the price for my sin and for taking my place on the cross. Your forgiveness has changed my life and Your love has set me free. I don't understand why You would choose to love me like You do, but I celebrate that love today, Lord. Forgive me when I take Your love for granted and help me share it with others - for Your glory.

  • Make a list of five things God has done in your life in the last month.
  • Take the time to re-visit those blessings and examine the way(s) they have changed your life.
  • Set aside time to celebrate God's power and presence at work in your life.
  • Invite a few friends to join you for the party! Let each person share the good things God has done for them as well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rest in God

by Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) "Come to me all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Friend To Friend
We live in uncertain times. Where do we turn for rest, for hope, for peace and stability? Jesus offers rest and hope and the promise of a better tomorrow. How can we experience the peace and rest God so freely offers?

  • Admit your need for rest. Many of us have bought into the lie that who we are is based on what we do or don't do. We fill every waking moment with something or someone in order to prove our worth. After all, we must be worthy if we are doing worthy things, right? Busyness does not always equal productivity. When we admit our need to rest, we are acknowledging the fact that we are imperfect and that our human power if limited. We need to rest in Him.
  • Turn to Jesus to find rest. Recreation is anything you enjoy doing while relaxation is any activity that slows you down. Restoration is an inside job and can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We once had an Australian cattle dog named Dallas. Australian cattle dogs are extremely loyal to a master of their choice. Dallas chose our son, Jered, to be his master. When Jered came home from school each day, Dallas would greet him at the door and follow him wherever he went. If Jered was doing homework in his room, Dallas would find a spot under Jered's desk and lay down. If our son was working in the garage, Dallas was with him. When Jered ran an errand, Dallas went for a ride. Dallas knew that the only place he would find rest was at the feet of his master. The same is true in our life.
  • Lay your stuff at Jesus' feet. The number one stress in your life is the burden you have assumed that is not yours to carry. Exhaustion comes when we fail to take on a responsibility God never intended us to bear. The twin of exhaustion is emptiness which comes when we fail to take on a responsibility God does intend us to take on. God empowers His plan and agenda for our life. When we step outside of that plan, we are stepping into our own power and depending on our own strength, both of which will soon be depleted.
  • Realize you are not alone. For years, our family vacationed in the mountains of North Carolina in order to escape the brutal heat of South Florida where we lived. We all had our favorite thing to do while on vacation. Dan loved to read and take long walks in the cool, green forests. The kids loved wading in creeks, looking for "gold." My favorite activity was shopping for antiques. Now let me define "antiques" and "antique stores" according to Mary. The best stores were nestled in the mountains on some remote dirt road and the "antiques" were what most people would call junk. One year, I walked into a shop and stopped in my tracks when I saw the yoke. One of my husband's favorite passages of scripture is Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you ... and you will find rest for your souls." For years, I searched for just the right yoke to give Dan as a special gift. It seemed that every yoke I found was either too big or too small and in less than stellar condition. The yoke before me was in perfect condition and was just the right size and price. Upon closer inspection, my excitement faded.

Yokes have two loops of leather or wood attached to a sturdy wooden frame. Two working animals wore the loops around their necks in order to bear whatever load they were given. The loops on this particular yoke were not the same size - one larger than the other. When I pointed out the flaw, the shop owner said, "It is supposed to be made like that. The stronger animal is placed in the larger loop to help the weaker animal pull the load. A shared load is a lighter load. Rest is found in a personal relationship with God and with others.

Are you tired and exhausted from trying to live life on your own? Come to Jesus - just as you are. Find rest in Him.

Let's Pray
Father, thank You for the rest you promise to give when I come to You. It seems like I am always tired and every step is hard. Please forgive me when I turn to You as a last resort instead of running to you first. Today, I turn to You, Lord, for rest.

In Jesus' name,

Now It's Your Turn

  • Read Genesis 2:2. How does this verse apply to your life?
  • Read Lamentations 5:5. How does rest apply to the difficult people in your life?
  • Read Job 33:26. Notice every "action" word in this verse. What does God promise when we choose to apply the steps He outlines in this verse?
  • Identify the areas of unrest in your life. Bring them to God in prayer and seek rest in Him.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My cousin is on his way to Afghanistan

My cousin Jonathan (the one in the back) is a United States Marine Helicopter Pilot (My other cousin, Jason, standing in front is in the Marine Reserves). On July 13th he send out a mass email informing all of us that he and his squad were being deployed to Afghanistan. This is his first deployment away from his family. He has been stationed on the base in Hawaii for the past two years and his wife and two children went with him, but now he is on his way to Afghanistan.
He is a strong Christian man and the lay minister to his squad. Here is the email I received on Sunday morning before I went to church:

Hello All,
I appreciate all of your prayers so far because I have definitely felt them. It has been a very long trip so far. We have crossed 16 time zones (yes, instead of flying the other way and crossing 8 time zones) and I spent over 27 hours on a plane over a few days. It was especially exhausting because lucky me got to sit in the middle seat and had two guys on each side from Baltimore to here. Currently, I am sitting in Kyrgyzistan (yeah, I couldn't find it on a map either until yesterday) at the Transient Base for armed forces going into Afghanistan. I will not be here very much longer, but it was nice to sleep in a bed instead of watching the sun come up three times on a plane over four days.

The best part of the trip so far has been feeling God's presence. The base has a chapel and I went to the contemporary worship service this morning. Most of you will probably read this after your own Sunday morning worship service, but I will tell you that I would not trade the experience I had this morning for any service. It was a simple yet powerful reminder of the sovereignty and the size of the God that we serve. Even at the foothills of the Himalayas at a remote base in the middle of Asia, I felt the powerful presence of God from the first note that we sang. God is so much bigger than our home church. He is so much bigger than the community and the country we live in. He is so much bigger than this war and He is so much bigger than the universe that we live in. I am fairly certain that I have spoken those very same words so many times, but today I really felt those words in a powerful new way.

As you can probably guess, it gets fairly hot in the area that I will be flying so I wear a camouflage bandanna underneath my flight helmet that was given to me years ago. On that bandanna I have Psalm 91 and I wanted to share one of those verses that already has brought me comfort.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Stay in your fight and I will stay in mine.


Please pray for Jonathan and his squad! I love my family very much and pray for their safety daily.

Friday, July 17, 2009

God is...

Elohim - strong One, divine (Genesis 1:1)

Adonai - Lord, indicating a Master-to-servant relationship (Exodus 4:10, 13)

El Elyon - Most High, the strongest One (Genesis 14:20)

El Roi - the strong One who sees (Genesis 16:13)

El Shaddai - Almighty God (Genesis 17:1)

El Olam - Everlasting God (Isaiah 40:28)

Yahweh - LORD “I Am,” meaning the eternal self-existent God (Exodus 3:13, 14).

I am...

...a daughter, a sister, a grand-daughter, a niece, a cousin, and a friend.
I am a partner, a student, a young girl, and a grown woman.
I am confident and scared; terrified and excited.
I am loving and caring and thoughtful and hopeful.
I am sick and tired.
I am shy and friendly.
I am careful and careless.
I am broken and whole.
I am misunderstood, misguided, and mislead.
I am hard working and determined, but a little scared on the inside.
I wish on stars and dream my dreams.
I pray to God and cry my tears.
I smile on the outside while I am crying on the inside.
I listen to others who wont listen to me.
I walk on eggshells and I walk on fire.
I believe in passion and true love.
I love you and I push you away.
I want you but not too close.
I am everything and nothing all at once and all i want is...

to stop being a contradiction


Thursday, July 16, 2009

where have I been all week??

New job- more stressful than the last one, but I know that if I stay as close to God as possible, it will be a Jospeh experience.

Money issues- who doesn't have them!?

Life- um... not sure I really have one right now, but whatever I have is close enough to one that I'm not missing the real life... whatever that is.

Now, here's something worth reading:

Psalm 139:14-16 "I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother's body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old" (NCV).

What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance. Psalm 33:12, NLT

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health. Proverbs 15:30, NLT

Thursday, July 9, 2009

God is... I am... why should I.... how can I?

Psalm 19:7-11

"The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward."

These verses mean so much to me right now!In God teaching me about true intimacy with Him, these verses are showing me who God is, what He wants to do with my life, how I can let Him, and why I should let Him.

What/who God is:

  • Perfect
  • trustworthy
  • right
  • clear
  • pure
  • true
What He wants to do with me:
  • revive my soul
  • make me wise
  • bring my heart joy
  • give me insight
  • give me a great reward (heaven!)

Why should I let Him do these things in me:
  • He is forever
  • He is fair
  • He is more desirable than gold
  • He is sweeter than honey
  • He warns me because He loves me
How can I allow this to happen:
  • Obedience to Him and His word
If I'm going to get more intimate with God and get to a place where I can pour into others from a never ending wellspring of His love, joy, peace, and energy, then I'm going to need to learn these things... and quickly! God knew that I would need this summer to deal with these things because when the fall hits, it's going to be too busy for me to give this the focus and attention it deserves.

On another note, I've been drawing more and more lately. It's been very therapeutic.

Monday, July 6, 2009

now is the winter of our discontent...

I'm finding myself discontent lately. I didn't know it was happening until recently. I knew something was a little... disconnected, but I didn't know what or why. Now I know. Even though I'm surrounded by friends, family, and people that love me very much, I find myself discontent with the state of my life. Quite frankly, it's a little lonely.

But why? Because I'm not married? Because I'm not in the stage of life I think I should be in? Because I might secretly blame God for keeping me in one place too long and that's apparently a bad thing? Or because I blame myself, as if I had the choice to move on to the next stage of life and I passed it up?

E: All of the above.

I want to be married and I'm not. That's that. I see people who are the next stage of life and I want to be there. I'm tired of the problems that come with my current stage and I'm ready for new challenges. Yes, I do blame God. He's in control, isn't He? This is His show after all. And yes, I blame myself. I've had two distinct opportunities to move on to the next stage of life and I didn't.

But here's the thing about all that: if I'm not faithful with what I have been given in this stage, I won't be given anything new. If I'm not content with God in my current stage of life, I'm not going to be content in the next stage. Yes, God is in control, and He's a lot wiser than I am and He knows that moving me too quickly through life isn't going to turn out well for me. The decisions I've made in the past, I made after consulting a wise counsel and had a peace about them. Blaming myself now for making the right decisions then just seems silly, but you just saw me do it a paragraph ago.

The point is this: we, as humans, are pretty much stupid when it comes to what is best for us. Yeah, we make a right decision every now and then, but statistically, we're not good at running our own lives.

While I have been searching for contentment, the thought of asking God for it hadn't really entered my mind until today. I mean, praying for God to help me be content in Him... it just seems kinda wrong. Shouldn't my own contentment be something I can handle on my own? No, that's the point! We can't handle it! Something as huge as our own contentment, we cannot, nor should we try, to handle!

Here's what David said about it:

Psalm 62:5-8

5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

David pretty much ordered his own soul to find its rest in God and then told it why God was worthy. David then moves from his own soul to all his peoples souls. Basically, David says "do this, because God will never let you fall." Is that a good enough reason to find my contentment in God? Simply because He's trustworthy? I can honestly say that I have tried to find my contentment in things other than God and have ended up very disappointed and discontent with myself and the world. But shouldn't I find my contentment in God because that's where it really is? Shouldn't I rest in God because I love Him and He loves me? My human heart doesn't always understand that.

Later, David says this:

Psalm 86:11-12

11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

David has to ask to be taught God's ways. He had to ask for an undivided heart so that he could love God as God should be loved and that he could fear God the way God should be feared.

My prayer today is this: that God would see fit to give me this undivided heart so that I can long for the things God longs for in my life. So that I would be able to see how He sees and help people and glorify God the way God should be glorified. I stink of humanity and sin and that hinders me from praising the Eternal God the way He should be praised. But that doesn't hinder me from asking that God make my heart whole so that He can use it for His glory.

I think I'll work on a drawing/painting to illustrate this "whole heart" idea...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

pity parties...

... are only fun for about 2 seconds and then you realize how useless they are. I mean, sure, things happen and sometimes those things might suck a little bit, but what's the purpose of focusing on them?

A friend sat in my kitchen one night and told me all about how her life was just going right down the tubes. She threw herself a big ole pity party right there at my table. At the end of a lengthy description of everything going wrong in her life and about 30 minutes full of self-pity, she looked at me and asked, "What should I do?" I looked right into her eyes and gave her ( I think) the best advice I have ever given anyone! "Stop it!"

Stop feeling sorry for yourself! You're missing the lesson God may have for you in your circumstances.

Stop complaining! You can't hear God speak if you don't stop talking.

Stop whining! You're just proving your lack of faith.

Stop acting like a victim! God made you to be a victor through His power.

Stop doing things you know are going to hurt you! God did not create you to be stupid.

Stop chasing away your friends by being a "Negative Nancy"! God created you to be an encouragement to those around you.

Stop working under your own power! God created you so that He could work through you.

Stop acting like you don't know what's going on! God has clearly shown you in His word how to live.

Just stop it!

end rant.